Summer’s all but over, but it’s no less important to stay hydrated. According to the CDC 43 percent of Americans drink fewer than four glasses of water a day, and while the actual amount you should drink varies from person to person, four glasses probably doesn’t cut it.
That’s where Caktus, a neat Finnish hardware startup that presented at TechLaunch’s second New Jersey demo day, comes into play. Their mission? To fix that dearth of drinking with an app and a curious sensor that straps onto your water bottle.
The sensor (called, adorably enough, the Hug) is a foam-lined gizmo that wraps itself around a water bottle and quietly tracks its motion. It’s not just a pint-sized koozie though — the Hug quietly monitors the bottle’s movements so it can provide its user with a rough idea how much fluid they’ve imbibed so far. Think of it as a giant Jawbone Up that straps onto your water receptacle and you’re on the right track.
As always though, the hardware is only part of the equation. A companion app (iOS only for now) uses an algorithm to suss out which of those motions actually correspond to the user lifting the bottle to drink and which are just noise caused by random movements. The app also tracks ambient temperature and keeps tabs on what sorts of exercise you’re doing (you still have to punch that in yourself) so it can update your hydration goal in real time.
To hear founder Panu Keski-Pukkila tell it, the Hug (and the rest of Caktus) was born out of pure necessity. An avid extreme athlete, he grew used to his girlfriend reminding him to drink more water while he was out carving up slopes in the Alps. When she moved to New York, though, that useful feedback mechanism disappeared and Keski-Pukkila set out to create something that could fill that particular hydro-centric void.
And you know what? As downright kooky as the whole thing sounds, the combo of the Hug sensor and the app actually worked really well. In a brief demo, the sensor was accurately able to determine that roughly two ounces of water were squeezed out of the bottle, and the partner app updated almost immediately. With the Hug, you’re not quantifying yourself so much as you’re quantifying the stuff that goes in your body. That said, the team is taking a proactive approach when it comes to all those fitness-tracking gizmos floating around out there. They’ve already managed to bake in Fitbit support so users won’t have to punch in how many glasses of water they’ve downed in a day.
For now the device is still strictly in its prototype phase, but the team is eagerly working to get the Hug, its partner app, and a dev-friendly API ready for prime time by early next year. So far they’ve locked up $25k in seed funding from the TechLaunch accelerator, and they plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign in early 2014 to lock up the cash necessary to start producing these things en masse.